Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Naomi Bryant inquest: Failings in sex offender release

A woman was killed by a convicted sex offender after a series of failings by the agencies involved in his release, an inquest jury has ruled.

Naomi Bryant, 40, of Winchester, was killed by Anthony Rice in 2005 while he was on licence from prison.

Rice, 54, was jailed for life after admitting murder and has previous convictions for sex assaults.

The coroner said the case had been a "wake up call" to those involved. The jury ruled she was unlawfully killed.

Coroner Grahame Short said he would reveal at a later date whether he would make recommendations to the agencies involved.

Met in pub

Ms Bryant's mother, Verna Bryant, 72, fought for several years to be granted an inquest into her daughter's death as hearings do not normally take place after criminal proceedings.

With help from the civil rights organisation Liberty, she made a successful case for the hearing under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act which says where the state may have failed to protect a life a full investigation must take place.

Image caption Rice will not be giving evidence to the inquest

At the time of the killing Rice was under the supervision of multi-agency public protection arrangements, Mappa - a government framework designed to manage violent offenders in England and Wales.

Rice had a long history of rape and sexual assault, including a serious sexual assault against a five-year-old girl in 1975 and the rape of a woman in 1982.

He was jailed in 1989 for attempted rape but was released from prison in November 2004 and went to live at Elderfield probation hostel in Otterbourne, near Winchester.

Nine months later he strangled and stabbed multiple sclerosis sufferer Ms Bryant after meeting her in a pub.

The jury found that the authorities failed to pass on important information such as previous convictions, including child sex offences, to his parole board and case handlers.

'Implemented changes'

This meant that those directly responsible for Rice's care and release from prison were unaware of how dangerous an offender he was.

Verna Bryant said: "People who are as dangerous as Anthony Rice, mentally sick as Anthony Rice, shouldn't be let free.

"I feel they [the authorities] have failed themselves and as the coroner said it's a wake-up call for all of them."

The agencies criticised included Hampshire Probation Service, HM Prison Service, London Probation Service, Hampshire Police and the Langley House Trust which ran the hostel.

Barrie Crook, chief executive of Hampshire Probation Trust, said "misjudgements" were made once Rice was released.

He said a number of new procedures had been introduced to improve staff training and communication between different agencies.

Langley House Trust said it had implemented changes in response to the murder.

A spokesman added: "The past six years have been a very difficult time for the staff and residents of the Elderfield project, but we know that this has been nothing as compared to the loss felt by Naomi's family."

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